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Archive for Sunday, December 20, 1998

AIRLINES CURTAILING EXCESS CARRY-ON BAGGAGE

December 20, 1998

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Policy changes by the airlines have put limits on how many items air travelers can carry on a plane and how big those items can be.

Any air traveler used to carrying Christmas presents under one arm, a purse around the neck and a laptop computer case in one hand while dragging a rolling suitcase behind could be in for a holiday surprise this year.

In the last year, most of the major airlines have tightened their restrictions on carry-on baggage.

Some airlines are simply more strictly enforcing their existing policies.

Others have added rules and devices to help control the amount of luggage being crammed into the passenger areas of planes.

United Airlines at Kansas City International Airport is expecting delivery of a stainless steel template to attach to the front of its X-ray machines, said Michael Cross, executive service director of United Airlines.

The template, like those already in use at other airports, will have a rectangular hole cut in its center measuring 23 inches by 15 inches. Carry-on items that won't fit through the frame will have to be checked with the airline, Cross said.

The X-ray devices, which Cross said are also going to be used by TWA and Delta, are only the latest manifestation of a trend that has developed over several years, intensifying in 1998.

Gone are the days when travelers were allowed on planes with their arms loaded with as many things as they could carry while flight attendants looked the other way.

The trend has been driven in part by airlines that are filling their planes with more passengers, and by the passengers themselves, who are trying to carry more items and check fewer.

"They try to carry everything on now," said Dorothy Pogge, manager of Carlson Wagonlit Travel in Lawrence.

Joe McBride, spokesman for Kansas City International Airport, said Kansas City business travelers in particular shun the baggage check line. They relish the ease with which they can get from curb to plane, he said.

Cross said safety concerns, created by numerous injuries to passengers struck by items falling from overhead bins, have forced the issue.

The restrictions have been encouraged, as well, by flight delays caused by late-arriving passengers unable to find places to store their carry-on bags.

About 70 percent of preventable delays are caused by carry-on luggage problems, Cross said.

The policy changes have evidently been accepted by the travelers without too much grumbling.

McBride said he has yet to hear complaints about the changing policies.

Cross said the airlines have done their best to warn travelers of the carry-on changes in advance.

United has played a video on all flights this year. And posters are hung in the airports.

"With all the airlines doing it, it's not too much of a surprise," Cross said. "They've seen it coming."

-- Kendrick Blackwood's phone message number is 832-7221. His e-mail address is kblackwood@ljworld.com.

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